Federal Judge Edward Davila sentenced the once celebrated founder of the biotech start-up Theranos to 135 months in the California city of San Jose on Friday (local time). The pregnant 38-year-old does not have to start her prison sentence before April 27 next year.
Holmes wanted to revolutionize the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry with her blood test company – but the promise turned out to be a bluff. The former US model entrepreneur was found guilty of fraud by a jury in January. The jury found that she lured investors into investing in her company with intentionally false claims about Theranos technology.
The penalty is a hard blow for Holmes. Her lawyers had spoken out for a maximum of 18 months in prison and otherwise pleaded for house arrest and community hours as punishment. The prosecution had called for a minimum of 15 years in prison. According to the law, Holmes could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to US media, she has already announced that she will appeal the verdict.
Silicon Valley Star
The trial of Holmes, which once made it to the front pages of the US business journals as a great hope for innovation in the tech stronghold Silicon Valley, caused a stir in the United States. The ex-business star’s rise and fall have been discussed in podcasts and filmed in the TV series The Dropout. Holmes always denied the fraud allegations and assured that she genuinely believed in Theranos technology.
She also blamed her ex-boyfriend and former business partner Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani for the scandal. He was also found guilty of fraud in July. The sentence is still pending. Judge Davila said her failure to plead guilty put her at a disadvantage when determining her sentence.
Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 when he was just 19 years old. The company advertised a supposedly revolutionary technology for particularly fast, effective and inexpensive blood tests. Holmes became a billionaire through Theranos, at times the company was valued at around nine billion dollars. For years, the charismatic young entrepreneur was celebrated as a tech pioneer. She won financially strong investors and prominent supporters such as ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
In 2015, research by the Wall Street Journal revealed that their blood test machines weren’t working at all. Even though Holmes initially stubbornly denied all allegations, her house of cards continued to falter. A series of other investigative articles finally exposed the supposed success story as a hoax. In fact, Theranos’ alleged innovations didn’t work, instead the company apparently secretly used conventional test methods. Fraud charges followed in 2018.